Apollos hoping for both short and long-term success this season
If not for the brooding Jesuit juggernaut aligning up for another Class 6A state championship banner, Sunset could very well be the wunderkind of upper state ranks.
Since the end of their fortified dynasty that spanned four seasons and left behind a trail of collegiate competitors, the Apollos have stayed pertinent. The then-freshmen and sophomores like Colin Aslett and Austin Chang, who took their learning lumps as underclassmen, are now veteran seniors who have done it all and seen it all sans postseason prestige due to the Crusaders' dominance. At the moment, there are talented underclassmen behind the old hands who sidestepped Jesuit's gravitational pull and are now suiting up in purple and white rather than yellow and green. Discreetly, Sunset's taken second place in Metro each year since the Apollos won the league title in 2013-14. And, while Jesuit is essentially a shoe-in to three-peat, that by no means discredits what lies ahead for the Apollos and their encouraging court of contenders both this year and in the coming seasons.
"I just hope that we can perform to the best of our capabilities," Chang said. "All of us have put in the effort to show the rest of the team that you can still try hard even if it's easy.
"As a captain, one of my main goals is to show the underclassmen that high school swimming is still something to invest in," continued Chang. "Next year Colin and I will be gone and so will a lot of Jesuit's best swimmers. That's going to open up a lot of opportunities for the Sunset swimmers. They can do it. They can strive even higher next year."
"I think the team's been getting stronger every year, even though we've lost people every year," Aslett said. "We might not win it this year, but next year and every year after that I feel like we'll have a chance."
Sunset withstood Westview with a 99-71 win on Jan. 5 at Sunset Swimming Center to move its record to 2-0 in Metro this year.
Westview returning state 'A' finalist Ethan Luc led the Wildcats with wins in the 50 free (22.46) and 100 free (49.79) and anchored Westview's triumphant 200 medley relay (1:45).
"I just try and go as hard as I can to get leads and try to win it for the team," said Luc. "It wasn't enough, but that's fine. Everybody still tried hard."
Luc swims on the same club team with Aslett, Chang and Sunset sophomore star Caspar Corbeau and said while they were rivals for a meet, it was no different than an every day occurrence — seeing that the foursome races against each other often on the club circuit away from the high school swimming scene.
"It's always fun to go against the Sunset guys," Luc said. "We push each other to be better, but we also joke with each other a lot. It's something you need to have with your teammates."
Luc is a predominately club-dedicated swimmer who practices daily and competes on the weekends with the Oregon Thunderbolts. He doesn't train with the Wildcats during the week, but still competes with Westview on race days and aids in their team cause.
"I try to be supportive for them while I'm here," said Luc. "High school swimming is fun and I enjoy it a lot. I like swimming with my classmates and not just college people. It's a good change with a lot less stress."
Luc — who reached the state finals at Mount Hood Community College in both the 50 and 100 free last year after moving to Oregon from California — said he hopes to swim a 20-second 50 free and a sub 46-second 100 free this season, hopefully toward the tail end of the year. Both times would put him within striking distance of a state title. And, after a "disappointing" fifth place finish in the 50 free and second place in the 100 free that were mainly due to the cold pool conditions of MHCC, Luc is ready to thrive at the state's biggest showcase next month.
"I just need to execute properly, do what I've been doing in training and transfer it to the race," said Luc. "If I can do that, I think it can happen. Last year, it was tough swimming in the Mount Hood pool. I wasn't used to the air conditions or the water. It was tough to swim in it and I didn't perform as well as I should have. But I'm excited to go back."
Chang and Aslett want to impart and pass down values and traditions of the Apollos' swimming culture that was founded upon pure hard work. Freshmen Regis Wang and David Boariu are backing Colin Aslett, Chang and Corbeau — entrenched stars who have been to the state meet themselves both individually and as part of past Apollo relays— and allowing the trio to swim in their best events, rather than using their talents in needed relays.
"I think we have a more holistic team this year," said Chang. "We have a lot of new freshmen who are able to fill in all of the different races. It's more of a team effort. Overall I think we'll see a lot more people in the finals both at districts and state."
Aslett said team morale is higher than its ever been during his time at Sunset, as the newer Apollos and seasoned vets are mingling together more often and procuring in team goals.
"More people are cheering and getting excited after every race," Aslett said. "You can feel the energy in this team and every race I feel like we're just giving more and more."
As opposed to last season when the Apollo-Wildcat matchup came down to the final 400-yard freestyle relay in which Sunset was able to secure the head-to-head win, Sunset finished comfortably ahead of their crosstown rival thanks to seven first-place finishes.
Corbeau took top honors in the 200 individual medley (2:00) and 100 breaststroke (58.47). Chang won the 100 backstroke (56.99) and 100 butterfly (57.49). Aslett placed first in the 200 free.
"Sunset is faster this year," Luc said. "Some of the freshmen I swim with on my club team have moved up and helped them a lot. I don't think they can close the gap on Jesuit because they're too stacked. But, they'll have a chance in the medley (relay)."
Chang, Corbeau, Aslett and Christian Walker teamed up on the 200 and 400 free relays for first place finishes.
"It was good to see everybody trying their best," Chang said. "Even though some of the races were pretty easy, it was good to see people putting their best effort in."